Mid-Autumn Festival is knocking at our door, and it’s the perfect time to get together with your family and friends to enjoy a day of indulging in all kinds of yummy mooncakes and some moon gazing too! We’ve got the lowdown on the holiday, its history and what’s on around Hong Kong for all the family to enjoy. Get the scoop on everything you need to make the holiday perfect right here.
Today, Mid-Autumn Festival is a big event that celebrates – among other things -harvest time, along with the biggest and brightest moon of the year. With roots tracing back as far as the Tang Dynasty (from around 600AD), you could say that it’s pretty well established in Chinese culture! Traditionally celebrated as a Harvest Festival, people would gather to make offerings of food and drink to the Moon Goddess, Chang’e, and to give thanks for crops harvested during the year. Held on the 15th day of the 8th Month of the Chinese lunar calendar (typically in September or October – this year it takes place 19 – 22 September), the festival coincides with the full moon.
Legend has it that Chang’e blesses her worshippers with beauty, and people light lanterns in her honour so that she can see them clearly from the sky.
Traditionally given as gifts between friends and family during Mid-Autumn Festival, it’s fair to say that mooncakes are an acquired taste! Made from densely packed red bean or lotus seed paste and salted duck egg yolk-stuffed pastry, these innocent-looking treats are a dieter’s worst nightmare, and are best served in small slices with hot tea to cut through the density. These days, you can choose from chocolate, ice cream and even custard fillings if you’re not a fan of the lotus paste original.
Regardless of what’s inside, mooncakes are beautifully decorated, making them fab gifts. Sold individually, in decorated boxes, or in full-blown hampers, they sell out like hot… err… cakes, so buy sooner rather than later to avoid disappointment!
Where to buy
At this time of the year you’re spoiled for choice, with every store, restaurant and bakery in town offering their own unique take on this classic.
Top of the tree are the gourmet offerings from the ‘Kong’s top hotels. The Peninsula, Conrad, Mandarin Oriental and Langham hotels all have luxury mooncakes and hampers for your delight and delectation.
For a twist on mooncakes made for the chocoholics, The Mira offers Valrhona chocolate mooncakes with exotic spices, while Godiva has some alongside its classic Belgian chocs; 126Grammes also has handcrafted chocolate ganache mooncakes ready for gifting… or your own sweet tooth!
A more kid-friendly version is available from Haagen-Dazs, whose annual ice-cream mooncake release is breathlessly awaited in Hong Kong households (a bit like the September issue of Vogue for mama!).
Good old Maxims have branches all over town and mooncakes stretching from here to… err… the moon! They are wallet-friendly and full of choices from classic flavours, snow skin ones, (chewy mochi that’s served cold) to super-cute Hello Kitty & Toy Story themed ones!
There are also the western alternatives of cakes and fruit baskets available during this time of the year from Ms B’s Cakery and Edible Arrangements… perfect if you’re going visiting but lotus seed paste isn’t exactly their cup of tea.
Alternatively, here’s a simple recipe for some DIY Mooncake making with the wee ones. Head to Shanghai Street in Yau Ma Tei (also known as Kitchen Street) for the mooncake moulds or improvise with patterned cookie cutters!
Image sourced via Shutterstock
Mid-Autumn Festival is all about light and wouldn’t be complete without a fabulous lantern to bedeck and bedazzle your apartment. Head along Queen’s Road West in Sheung Wan (towards Sai Ying Pun), and you’ll come across traditional lantern and paper offering shops selling gorgeous and affordable creations. From traditional, via floral to Disney, there are lanterns for every taste and age!
To see the most spectacular display of festival lanterns in Hong Kong (if not the world!), hotfoot it over to Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park for the massive one2free Lantern Wonderland from 14 – 22 September 2013. Here you’ll find a carnival of light, with a festive market where you can pick up treats and souvenirs, watch traditional performances and, of course, lanterns galore! This year’s centrepiece will be a 10-metre high Rising Moon sphere made out of recycled bottles and light effects to mimic the different lunar phases – basically a giant moon that comes to life! Cool!
Not an Islander? There are loads of lantern festivals complete with traditional performances, puppet shows and more taking place all round the ‘852 including at Sha Tin Park, Tuen Mun Park and a large lantern display around the theme of Home Sweet Home over at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza at Tsim Sha Tsui.
Image sourced via Shutterstock
Legend has it that the villagers of Tai Hang staved off a plague with a Fire Dragon dance in the 1880’s, and this must-see Mid-Autumn tradition continues to this day. These days, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon is bigger and better than ever, with the 67 metre-long behemoth not only breathing fire, but actually made of fire! Created from rope, straw and thousands of lit joss sticks, it takes hundreds of Tai Hang-ers to keep this Dragon tamed, and people from all over Hong Kong line the streets to catch sight of the procession. A riot of drums, smoke and music, this amazing sight is quintessential Hong Kong; loud, fascinating and steeped in tradition.
Sassy Mama Tip: walking distance from Victoria Park, why not combine your Tai Hang visit with the Lantern Display and make a night of it? Just head up Tung Lo Wan Road and follow the crowds (and the smell of smoke!) from 7.30pm on 18-20 September 2013.
And for a smaller Fire Dragon dance, head to Pok Fu Lam village and Aberdeen on 19 September, where you can still experience all the charm and spectacle of this gorgeous ceremony in a smaller throng of people. The event starts at 7pm and runs until around 11:30pm.
A time to appreciate the beauty of the full moon, Mid-Autumn Festival is the perfect opportunity to try moon-gazing with the family. The ideal spot? How about onboard the Shining Star ferry slap bang in the middle of Victoria Harbour? We’ve all seen the Symphony of Lights before, but never from this angle, and this hour-long cruise offers a whole new perspective on the city beneath a beautiful harvest moon (clouds permitting!).
Make it a more luxurious night with a buffet dinner or an open bar on board the Bauhinia cruise or Watertours Chinese boats. Lasting between 1.5-2 hours, The Bauhinia lets you enjoy the view with live band performances, while Watertours gives you the option of a quieter sea breeze along with the amazing view. Call +852 2802 2886 for more info on Bauhinia or +852 2926 3868 to get in touch with Watertours.
For something completely different, head to Cheung Sha Beach on the South Lantau coastline for the Palm Beach Full Moon Party. With a choice of teepees or bush camping, balloons, lanterns, mooncakes and even an all-night bonfire, this is an adventure the kids won’t forget. For more information email email@example.com by 15 September 2013.
For something simpler, a picnic in any of Hong Kong’s parks under the moonlight with some snacks, drinks (and of course mooncakes!) sounds good to us! Check opening times at your nearest park.
There’ll be loads of FREE entertainment going on around town – puppet shows, Chinese Opera, Chinese folks songs and dance… the list goes on! There’ll be a Chinese traditional puppet show on 22 September in Sheung Wan and a variety show that takes place on the same day at Shek Kip Mei in Kowloon, while an Oriental dance performance is staged at Tsuen Wan. In Shatin there’ll be Cantonese Opera songs performed on 28 September followed by a Chinese instrumental concert the next day. Yuen Long is also holding a Chinese Traditional Stage Arts Show on 29 September.
Hullett House will be hosting its first-ever Mid-Autumn Market with an “East meets West” influence on 19-22 September. There will be festival booths, Mid-Autumn lantern displays, exciting performances and local handicrafts.
Information overload? For a quick and easy peek at all the events going on in your area, hop over to the Leisure and Culture Department’s online schedule for September here.